Dwight Peck's personal Web site

Summer 2005

Lapiés in June, in bloom


Karstic observations in the Swiss Jura

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

The Jura mountains and hollows around Mont Tendre are mainly karst, to wit, "an area of irregular limestone in which erosion has produced fissures, sinkholes, underground streams, and caverns". Locally, in the Jura as in Leysin, this is called "lapiés", apparently a pre-French celtic word.

Slovenia knows as much about karst formations as anyone -- witness the famous Skocjan caves Ramsar site -- indeed, the geological term "karst" is rumored to be a back-formation from the Slovenian province of Krast. So here's the Slovenian delegate (who's also the director of the Skocjan National Park) seizing the opportunity to view the local wonders, and testing out her camera in anticipation.

Worse luck, the camera test came up with a wasted shot -- that's just our guide for the day, but there's more to be seen as we traverse the green meadows on our way to Mont Tendre. The Supreme Standing Committee of the Convention on Wetlands will be convening in sadness tomorrow, 6 June 2005, for its 31st meeting, and the Slovenian delegate is also the chairperson of the whole thing, so we feel a special responsibility to get her back on time to drop the opening gavel.

Like many scientists, the Slovenian delegate notices things that the rest of us laymen don't, as above. What could it be?

It's tiny, it's small, it's nearly invisible, but seems to be fascinating nonetheless. There it is: previously thought to be extinct.

In hiking terms, this is obviously not a foot race, because scientists are easily distracted by all kinds of things along the way.

I LOVE mountain flowers in the spring, DOTE on them, and they all look, though beautiful, the SAME to me. With a scientist in the party, we learn that we've seen some thirty different mountain flowers along the way, some perhaps never seen before. Note (above) that one of these is white, whereas the other is blue, and some are yellow. These are telltale signs of different kinds of flowers.

There's Mont Tendre in the offing, with hikers on the ridgeline like the final scenes of Bergmann's The Seventh Seal, dancing off with Death leading them on a cord.

The view back the way we've come, towards La Dôle. Note the little flowers. Yellow, mainly.

The narrator pauses to say something but needs just a few moments to recall what it was. But there's no time for that now.

Vastly amused, the Slovenian delegate photographs one of our Swiss "don't pick up the live munitions" signs for hikers. Yeah, like Slovenians don't have live Serbian munitions lying underfoot.

True karst enthusiasts can appreciate this limestone platform covered with a spongey sort of vegetation, and distinguish it from . . .

this one without the spongey sort of vegetation on it.

Here's a connoisseur of karst platforms, as we wander somewhat lost down through the Creux d'Enfer de Druchaux, looking for memorable, noteworthy features for Slovenia's representative to take home and taunt her karstic colleagues with.

Here's the one we were looking for -- we stumbled upon it by purest accident whilst lost, but pretended we'd planned it all along. This "gouffre" in Druchaux is on Internet lists of the world's best and the hole goes down to just near the bottom of China.

Karst caves with water in them, otherwise known as "Zk(a) – Karst and other subterranean hydrological systems, marine/coastal" or "Zk(b)– Karst and other subterranean hydrological systems, inland", were added to the Ramsar Classification System of Wetland Type by the Parties' adoption of Resolution VII.13 in San José, Costa Rica, in 1999. The delegate and her Slovenian colleagues masterminded that innovation, and now wet caves all over eastern Europe are being added to the Ramsar network of protected areas faster than the present narrator can keep up with adding them to the Ramsar List.

It's understandable, therefore, that any Slovenian, particularly this one, should feel impelled to peer more closely down into this world-famous "subterranean hydrological system, inland", whilst the Americans in the party back off a bit, take pictures, and keep whining "Careful now! Not too close!"

One would have thought that the barbed wire was intended to "send a message", as Bush would say, but scientists can't be prevented from their work . . .

. . . wherever it may lead them. ["Careful now! Not too close!"]

Other scientists may be amused to learn that the lens cover was still on and none of these photos came out at all. The present narrator was already forming phrases in his mind to explain to the Standing Committee tomorrow that the chairperson would not be presiding today or ever.


The Glacière de St-Livres

Here, to supply a little context, is a photo of the Glacière de St-Livres in April 2004, that is to say, the defacement on the surface of the earth, bounded by a little fence with a convenient gate in it for people who want to leap down into it.

But since then, someone's thoughtfully built a stairway and viewing platform halfway down, and naturally the Slovenian colleague takes advantage of the opportunity, whilst the narrator busies himself with rewinding the film and making sure that the water flasks are secure, keeping up with the weather bulletins, retying his shoelaces, shouting down encouraging advice, etc.

Camera poised, waiting for something to happen, vigilant and alert.

Still poised, ready to pounce on the least suggestion of movement or action, something happening down there, but, as the sun begins sinking into the west, and the dinner gong can almost be heard sounding from many kilometres away . . .

we snap this last action-packed photo and head home.

Time for dinner


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 8 October 2005, revised 5 May 2008, 10 January 2014.


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